I've been a bit contemplative lately. I've been contemplating the last three months on my new strict budget. I can't say it's all been plain sailing. I do struggle on a day to day basis, wishing sometimes, there was room for me to just go out and blow some cash on a bit of recreational/therapeutic shopping or spending, but there isn't and I can't. Maybe it's just as well, because these are the sort of habits I'm working hard to change.
On the whole though, the new regime is working pretty well. As usual, I always try to do everything at once, i.e.subscribe to a new life insurance policy, save £100 per month and pay off my overdraft once and for all - instead of taking smaller more gradual steps. I guess the reason for this, is that I feel that at my age, (I'm 50) I just need to crack on with it and get it sorted. No more messing about, I've done enough of that in the past, just do it, as one very famous advertising campaign suggests.
Although challenging in many ways, my new regime is, however, having some decidedly positive outcomes. Whilst trying not to go out shopping and spend money, I've become much more focussed on getting my house in order and keeping it in order, as readers of this blog will have noticed. Okay, it is bordering on the compulsive, but it is making me appreciate what we already have and look after it. It is also helping to reduce the urge to buy more, because realistically, there's very little we actually need or want.
The allotment has also been another way I have been able to occupy myself rather than go out spending money. Starting to cultivate my new plot has been a bit of a new challenge and is taking quite a bit of energy, but it's keeping me out of trouble and may even save us some money on food when the crops actually grow.
OH often asks me why I don't just pay off my overdraft with savings, and yes, I could do this, but as I've argued in the past on this blog, taking this easy route, doesn't really make me appreciate the damage that overspending and not living within my means actually causes in the long term and it doesn't break the cycle of my behaviour. I need the struggle to prevent me making the same mistakes, and although I've made them over and over again during my life and even as recently as the last two years, I'm really hoping that this time around the penny has finally dropped, for good. In this sense, this year's struggle is more about forming new habits around money, that don't lead to debt, rather than just paying off debt so that I can build it up again, and I think that as such it is a much healthier approach.
As I've mentioned before, helping me on this journey have been numerous Bloggers (you guys, of course) and YouTubers that I follow. I've enjoyed watching Budget Girl finally pay off over $30,000 of student debt this last month. For anyone, who likes to watch these kind of YouTubers and get inspiration from their budgeting methods, another channel that is also good to watch is Lindsay's Frugal Life, whereby Lindsay, a teacher in the US, is trying to pay down over $80,000 of student debt, accumulated after studying for a degree, a masters and a PhD, I believe. I admire her courage in facing up to such huge levels of indebtedness and just getting on with the process of paying it off.
In addition to the above, I've been doing a lot of reading around the subject of personal finance and I've learned a lot more about money and how to potentially make it work better for me/us. I was already pretty savvy when it came to spending money, but my problem has always been with restraint. Everything can seem like a deal too good to miss, even when you can't afford it. I am now trying to practice more restraint and get comfortable with it and it is a challenging process, especially in a world where you are encouraged to just buy what you want, (and even what you don't) whether you have the means or not.
As well as concentrating on reducing my spending, I am also starting to focus on becoming more savvy with regard to investing and saving and it isn't easy, especially with returns as low as they are at the moment. Regardless, I'm working on it here and there and making small improvements on returns to increase my income from investments as best I can.
Like Joshua Becker says about Minimalism, it is countercultural to a large extent to be frugal/intentional and not spend money, some people may and do even go so far as to call it unpatriotic, but is going along with the excess and continuing to buy into consumerism and the myth that we can have it all and more and more and more ad infinitum, a better solution. I think not.
Anyway, I'm slowly learning to develop a new relationship with money, one where I nurture and respect it more and appreciate the difference it can make to your life to be more in control of it and less controlled by it (or the lack of it).